First you’ve got the cost of menstrual products. In some areas, including 36 American states as of 2018, there’s even sales tax on these (as though they’re non-essential?!). For women who do have access to these products, they’re an essential expenditure. Over time, that can really add up, which poses a major challenge to those who can’t afford them.
What are women living in poverty supposed to do? This is an issue in western countries but also in developing nations. The organization Pads4Girls, which provides free reusable period supplies, estimates that 10% of girls in the Global South miss school because of their periods, and overall they miss about 20% of their school days.
While it’s fantastic that there are charitable organizations working on this issue, there are many women and girls who don’t have access to this support. A Global Citizen article notes that only 12% of menstruating women and girls in India have access to menstrual products.
The “Pink Tax” on Personal Care Products
In addition to the costs associated with menstruation, there are all the different personal care products where the “pink” version costs more than the “blue” version, even if it’s the exact same product. This difference is sometimes referred to as the “pink tax”.
A 2015 New York City Department of Consumer Affairs report noted that on average, prices for women’s products were 7% higher than men’s products. The difference for personal care products was 13%. The report cited a 1994 State of California study that found there was essentially a gender tax that worked out to around $1350/year.
A 2018 Canadian study reported in the Financial Post found that women were paying, on average, 43% more for personal care products.
I couldn’t easily find any figures on a gap in birth control costs. However, while I was looking I came across this gem from a conservative policy site:
What we are left with, then, are women who are having sex with men but don’t feel comfortable talking to them about finances. Some conservatives might say this is not a government-mandate-caliber problem. But even these kinds of sexual encounters come with various kinds of non-gender-neutral expenses besides birth control. Men often pay for meals and drinks; women usually spend more time and money preparing to go out. Since the pill doesn’t address STDs, there’s also the question of who pays for condoms. Again, why are we singling out birth-control pills, available for $9 at Walmart, as the expense to gender-equalize?RealClearPolicy
While I’m over here not spending time and money preparing to go out, and pitying the poor woman who gets knocked up by this douchebag, I am spending money on tampons and assorted other paraphernalia as the situation calls for—the actual cost of being a woman.
Plus, the female reproductive system isn’t cheap to maintain. You’ve got your pap tests, your yeast infections, your sex-related UTIs, your endometriosis, your vaginismus, your rectocele, and on, and on.
So stop taxing the damn tampons already.
You can find more on social issues on the Social Justice & Equality page.